Okay, so I almost didn’t post this one because it’s so simple that it’s almost a non-recipe. It’s really just another way to eat pasta and sauce. BUT then I got to thinking about it and decided to post for two reasons:
1. There are all skill levels of cooks out there. Although this might seem like a no-brainer to me, it might be a lightbulb recipe for someone else. We’ve all got to start cooking somewhere, right?
2. This is my “safety net” recipe. It’s something I can whip up when I’m too tired to be creative or put any real effort into cooking. I can make a batch of this and eat it for a week straight, without ever getting tired of it. Seriously, I look forward to eating this for lunch just as much on day 5 just as I did on day 1. Pasta, sauce, and cheese just never get old.
Okay maybe three reasons…
3. It’s one of those things that is great to stock your freezer with. Have a few single serving portions of this in your freezer for when your fridge is empty. A minute or two in the microwave and you’ve got a delicious and filling dinner. Safety net, indeed.
Turkey & Spinach Pasta Bake
Turkey Spinach Pasta Bake
This Turkey & Spinach Pasta Bake is a new spin on classic pasta and sauce. Easy and filling, this recipe is a life saver.
- 13 oz box penne pasta $1.45
- 1/2 lb 8 oz frozen cut spinach $0.80
- 3 links 12 oz Italian turkey sausage $2.75
- 2 cups 8 oz shredded Italian cheese blend $1.79
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder $0.02
- 1/2 tsp dried basil $0.05
- pinch red pepper flakes $0.03
- Freshly cracked pepper $0.05
- 24 oz jar 3 cups marinara sauce $1.69
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin boiling a large pot of water. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add the marinara sauce and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, squeeze the sausage out of its casing into a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until the sausage is fully browned, breaking it into small pieces with a spoon as it cooks. Drain the excess fat if needed.
Allow the spinach to thaw at room temperature, or use the microwave to defrost until the spinach is softened, but not hot to the touch (warm is okay). Add half of the shredded cheese (1 cup) to the spinach, along with the garlic powder, basil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir until the spinach, cheese, and seasonings are well combined.
Coat a 9x9 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread half of the sauce coated pasta over the bottom of the dish. Evenly distribute the spinach mixture over the pasta and then add the browned sausage on top. Add the second half of the pasta and then top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese on top is melted.
Doesn’t it kind of look like a pasta angel with towel wings? It’s my guardian angel pasta dish that saves me from hunger when I’m tired…
Step by Step Photos
I was trying to be a bit healthier this week, so I used whole wheat pasta. I don’t know why, but they refuse to package whole wheat or low carb pastas in regular sizes (1 lb. packages). So, if you’re using a regular pasta, you can just estimate 3/4 or 12 oz. from a one pound package. Anyway, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. And start preheating the oven to 350 while you’re at it.
Either thaw the spinach at room temperature, or use your microwave to quicken up the process. It’s okay for the spinach to get warm, but you don’t want it hot enough that it will melt the cheese when you try to stir it in later. I used half of a one pound bag, or 8 oz. Frozen spinach is a staple in my freezer. I put it in EVERYTHING.
I used turkey Italian sausage, but you could certainly use pork if you want to. The important part is to make sure to get Italian sausage (hot, mild, or sweet) because it is highly seasoned, which will add a lot to the final dish. I only used three of these links and put the other two in my freezer for later.
Squeeze the sausage out of the casing and into a skillet. Cook it over medium heat until it is fully browned, breaking it into small chunks as it cooks. If there is a lot of excess fat, you can drain it off after it’s finished cooking.
Once the spinach is thawed, add one cup of the shredded cheese, garlic powder, basil, red pepper flakes, and some freshly cracked pepper. This cheese is just one of those bags of “Italian cheese blend” that you get at the grocery store. I think it has mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, and… something else. You can just use mozz and then sprinkle in some grated parm, if needed.
Mix it all up good.
The pasta is probably finished cooking by this point, so drain it off in a colander and then return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add your favorite sauce and stir it on up so that the sauce gets all inside the pasta tubes. I didn’t have any homemade sauce in my freezer at the time, so I just bought some generic pasta sauce. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Spread half of the sauce coated pasta into the bottom of a casserole dish (9×9 or 8×8 inch). Oh, coating the dish with non-stick spray helps.
Add the prepared spinach/cheese mix, then the browned sausage.
Add the second half of the pasta, then the rest of the cheese. See? It’s kind of like a deconstructed lasagna. Now, pop that sucker into the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes so that it’s all heated through and the cheese is melted.
And then it’s all like “Oooooh. Aaaaahhh. Yessssss.”
I’m not kidding, I ate this for lunch every day for probably the last five days and I’m still not sick of it. I actually cut mine into 9 servings instead of 6 and found the portions to be quite filling. You know what that means? I still have 3 servings in my freezer! Yessss.